The Purposeful Leader: In Conversation with Muneesh Wadhwa
Muneesh Wadhwa is the Founder of Humanity in Business, a leadership movement which supports authentic leaders in their endeavour to create purposeful businesses. It aims to enable leaders to learn to value people over profits while playing a more active role in improving our world. Wadhwa is someone who guides himself by these principles in his own life, paving the way for others to follow his example through the work of his organisation. A conversation with Wadhwa reveals that his journey towards becoming a purposeful leader is ongoing and enriching.
A Personal and Professional Transformation
Wadhwa spent a significant period in his professional life running the CIO Network, a community of like-minded IT experts who worked towards building leadership capacity. The 15 years he spent in his position was marked by disengagement with his work and the events. After beginning a journey of self-reflection, Wadhwa realised that it was time to embark on a pursuit of higher purpose. It caused a shift away from defining success based on money and position.
C: What made you decide to become a purposeful leader who cares about people before profit?
MW: I had my own personal crisis that happened and that led me to question everything I did and why I did and what I did. That’s when I started to lose interest in IT and CIO Network, where I was working with IT leaders a lot. I realised I had to change and focus more on the people side. I had to change my thinking and my perception of the way I did business before I only used to be about getting business and revenues.
C: Was the transformation immediate or over a period of time?
MW: The moment of knowing that something had to change happened pretty quickly but the transformation happened overtime. Over time I had to realise that something was not working for me and what was working. I was really changing behaviours so the transformation happened over the years. I am still evolving to this day but the speed of change has slowed down, while in the early days it happened quite quickly.
C: How has the process of personal behaviour change slowed down for you?
MW: Initially I was learning a lot of new things and taking in information, so the learning curve went up quickly. Having reflected on the last ten years a lot, the learning still continues and I am learning something new every day but it’s more about embedding the behaviour change.
Now it’s about the next level – growing a purpose-driven and sustainable business!
C: Can you tell me about the values that underpin purpose and profit?
MW: Transparency is a big one. It’s about saying who I am, what I am trying to achieve and how I’m doing it. The more authentic I can be about what is going on in our business and what we are trying to achieve, the more customer engagement we get. The other piece is around empathy. Understanding the customer, understanding the client – what they are going through and how they are feeling. Also understanding our people and what drives them as well as being compassionate with them. Collaboration is another one – working collectively rather than in isolation. For me, business is about collaboration with stakeholders which underpins purpose and profit.
Finding Passion and Purpose
C: Where does your willingness to achieve these aims come from?
MW: Being disengaged in my previous business for 10 years, I realised that the secret sauce was the lack of passion and purpose which prevented it from growing, I realised that I need to do work that really motivates me otherwise I would get the same results.
C: The centre of Humanity in Business’ brand is finding purpose. Why is this a value which guides your organisation?
MW: I think everyone wants to find a purpose but they are not aware of it, they find it through meaningful relationships and giving back to charities and the community. Everyone innately is wired to do good and help others but they are just not aware that it’s such a big motivator. That’s why most people have children. When you have kids that gives you a sense of purpose and it makes life worth living. How can we create the same sense of purpose in the workplace?. Everyone is wired to serve and be of service. It’s just a matter of how much awareness you have around it and link what you do at work to it.
C: What makes someone realise they are wired to serve and be of service?
MW: I think it’s a personal journey. For me, it was a defining moment that was brought on when my relationship ended with my partner. That changed everything. Some people might never realise it since anything or no one has prompted them to think differently. That’s why the world is split into two group- those that truly care about sustainability and those that say they do but won’t put resources towards it.
Recognising the Value of Purposeful Individuals
C: HIB in business has been acknowledged for giving back and you have been acknowledged for giving back. How does that make you feel?
MW: I feel my purpose every day and that is a huge motivation, my level of engagement is off the charts. It gives me a sense of purpose and being on a mission. That is something I have tapped into everyday, even when it is really hard and cash flow is low. I tap into the higher purpose of why I’m here and it energises me.
C: When people have been recognised for finding their purpose as you have, does it inspire them to keep doing what they are doing?
MW: Recognition is where the gap is. I feel like so many people are doing good in the world and very few people acknowledge the work that they are doing. The gap is all of us want to be seen, all of us want to be heard, all of us want to be acknowledged for our work but I don’t see that happening enough. All of us want our parents to tell us how well we are doing as kids but we don’t get to feel that often. How can we provide the feedback loop that inspires people to do more?
C: Does the feedback loop take the form of receiving an award or someone saying ‘you are doing a great job’?
MW: It is as simple as that… hearing you are doing a great job from your colleagues, your boss, your friends, your parents or anyone can tell you that. I think telling someone you have done a great job and some more detailed feedback about exactly what it was they did really well would help. Be specific with the feedback and what was good about it but beyond that “You’re doing a great job” is fantastic.
C: I find it interesting that we often seek validation to reinforce our meaning and purpose. Can you find meaning when someone does not tell you that you are doing a great job’?
MW: It used to be an issue for me, I never got any feedback from my boss or my parents. The feedback I get now comes through the work and events I do, the customer feedback is what I seek for not just myself but how I can improve if I help them again.